When to End a Friendship: Signs It’s Time to Let Go

UPDATED: April 4, 2024
PUBLISHED: July 21, 2017
Two women sitting together, one is on the phone and the other is realizing it's time to end the friendship

Friendship is something we all desire, and having great friends improves our lives. Friends are often the people in our lives who make us better. So why is it that we are so tormented by certain friendships? Some fizzle out, some go sour, some grow apart. Regardless of the relationship, there are some universal signs a friendship is over. 

These signs are often things we choose to overlook as friends, but if you’re noticing them as a pattern, it may be a signal the relationship has run its course. Below, we’ll cover what those signs often look like and how to know when to end a friendship.  

1. Your core values differ and you’ve noticeably grown apart

Naturally, over time, some friendships move in different directions. Maybe you’re at different chapters in your life and have noticeably grown apart—or as your friendship ages, you begin to realize your core values are very different and you no longer have anything in common with one another. There’s nothing wrong with this, and while some friendships survive these factors, others do not. If this is the case, it may be time to reflect on the role this friendship plays in your life.

2. You always do all of the work

If your friendship is one-sided, then it might be time to reevaluate the relationship. But it’s important to remember that good friendships sometimes shift to support one person over the other, depending on the season. So be honest with yourself and ask, Am I always doing all of the work, or am I doing all of the work right now?

3. You can’t truly be yourself

If you feel like you need to be someone else when you’re around this person or there is a fear that they don’t accept you for who you are, it’s important to note this aspect of your friendship. If you have to shrink yourself to become digestible for someone else in order for the relationship to thrive, it isn’t a true friendship. 

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4. You feel entirely responsible for their happiness

You are not responsible for someone else’s happiness. You can be a part of their happiness, but you aren’t responsible for it. If your relationship with your friend is solely reliant on what you bring to the table and how you make them healthy, it may not be a functional friendship that consists of two independent people.

5. You typically feel drained after spending time with them

If the friendship isn’t adding to your life, then it’s time to dedicate your time to those who are uplifting and have a positive influence on you. Take inventory of how you feel after you spend time with your friend. If you frequently feel drained after spending time with them, this is a red flag and a sign to reflect on what specifically is causing you to feel drained when you’re in their company.

6. There are trust issues

If you don’t have trust, you don’t have a friendship. Deep connections require trust (in any relationship) and trust requires honesty. If you have consistent trust issues in your friendship, chances are it may not survive and the relationship will become a source of frustration.

7. They are immature

There is no room for immaturity in friendships. If someone plays games, gossips or is unable to be an adult when it comes to your friendship… it’s time to move on.

8. You must downplay your accomplishments

Some friendships are competitive, and while there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with that, a true friend should still be supportive of your accomplishments and excited about your wins. A good friend will want you to succeed—so if you find yourself holding back from sharing good news to avoid hurting your friend’s feelings, it can be a sign that perhaps you need to reassess your friendship.

How to end a friendship

If you read this and realize that there is someone in your life you need to distance yourself from, what do you do then? There’s no one good or easy way to end a friendship, but there are some options.

  • Sit down and tell them directly that you don’t want to continue being friends. 
  • Slowly allow things to fizzle out by not initiating contact. 
  • See the person less frequently and only in group settings.
  • Take responsibility for the decision to end the friendship.
  • Avoid blaming the other person. 
  • Use “I” language rather than “you” language when expressing your concerns.
  • Be kind because, after all, this person was your friend.
  • Be direct about what you need, whether that’s ending the friendship or taking a break.
  • Never break up impulsively.
  • Think carefully about what you’ll say and how you’ll say it.

Ending a friendship can be just as painful as ending a romantic relationship. It’s something that takes a good deal of consideration, especially if it’s someone you’ve been friends with for an extended period of time. 

Before you move forward and take action in a particular friendship that has gone south, ask yourself what is truly the best approach. Is a sit-down conversation really necessary? Or are you able to create healthy boundaries with this person and just allow your relationship to shift organically?

This article was updated April 2024. Photo by Bilanol/Shutterstock.com

Chalene Johnson is a New York Times best-selling author, motivational speaker and founder of the SmartLife movement. As the host and creator of many fitness informercials and a regular guest on QVC, Johnson has sold more than 10 million DVDs and currently holds “The Guinness Book of World Records” for the most fitness videos. The Huffington Post recognized Johnson as one of the Top 50 Female Entrepreneurs to watch in 2017. Johnson and her husband and business partner Bret have been married for more than 20 years.